Blues showed an abundance of heart and determination to hold Championship leaders Newcastle United to a goalless draw at St. Andrew’s on Saturday afternoon.
It was a deserved point for Gianfranco Zola’s charges who battled their illustrious opponents from the off.
Zola went with the same starting XI that he’d named in Blues’ last match away at Cardiff.
Clayton Donaldson had to be content with a place on the substitutes’ bench, following his return from a long-term knee injury.
It was a fairly lively opening to the game from both sides, although the majority of the play was taking place in the middle third of the pitch.
When Blues did get into the Newcastle’s half, they faltered far too often because of a loose final pass.
With 16 minutes gone Blues had their first real attempt on goal when Lukas Jutkiewicz’s cross from the left found Emilio Nsue at the far post, but the wing-back’s volleyed effort was well-blocked.
The ball bounced out to Craig Gardner, but his shot was also blocked and forced away from the danger zone by the Newcastle defence.
At the other end of the pitch the visitors were not far away when Grant Hanley headed just a couple of yards wide of the post.
Blues had a great opportunity to break the deadlock on 27 minutes when Gardner curled a delightful pass over to Jutkiewicz at the far post. But from a difficult angle the striker volleyed a left-footed effort into the side netting.
The hosts continued to press, and they fashioned another opening minutes later when Jonathan Grounds' long throw reached Ryan Shotton, but the defender’s header was palmed away by Karl Darlow in the Newcastle goal.
Shotton prevented what would have been a certain goal for Newcastle on 38 after Matt Ritchie had rounded Tomasz Kuszczak. Fortunately, the centre-half got back in time to clear the ball off his feet and away.
With 40 minutes on the clock, Newcastle thought they had taken the lead when Ritchie forced the ball over the line. But the visitors’ celebrations were premature as the linesman had already flagged for offside and it was ruled out.
Half-time: Blues 0 Newcastle 0
The early pressure in the second-half came from Newcastle and Krystian Bielik managed to get his body in the way of Daryl Murphy's goalbound shot and deflect it behind for a corner.
Kuszczak was then forced to produce a brilliant diving save to deny Murphy, who headed the ball towards the bottom corner following a corner. But at full stretch Kuszczak got down low to his left and pushed the ball away from just inside the post with his fingertips.
With just over an hour played Blues broke down the left and Gardner's ball found its way to Jutkiewicz in the box, but his teammate was unable to keep his shot on target and it went wide of the far post.
Newcastle almost took the lead after a big stroke of luck when Jack Colback’s shot was deflected into the patch of Dwight Gayle, but Kuszczak got to it just inches ahead of the Newcastle man and pushed the ball away from in front of his own goal line.
But it was certainly not all Newcastle as Gardner burst through and tried his luck with a low shot towards the bottom corner of the Darlow’s goal. But his chance was deflected behind for a corner by Hanley.
With the game entering its final 15 minutes, Yoan Gouffran's cross was sliced deep into his own box by Shotton and Kuszczak had to be alert to dive at Ritchie's feet to deny the Newcastle winger.
Kuszczak was then called into action again when did well to get down to Ritchie’s shot and tip it around his post for a corner.
With six minutes of normal time remaining Maikel Kieftenbeld went on a surging run deep into the Newcastle half before laying the ball off to Jutkiewicz. Jutkiewicz cut inside before unleashing a powerful low drive which was well-saved by Darlow on his own line.
Applause rang out around St. Andrew’s when Donaldson was introduced from the subs’ bench in place of Jutkiewicz for his first appearance since mid-December.
Alas Donaldson was unable to mark his return with a dream goal, but Blues stood firm for the remaining minutes.
Blues now head into the international break with renewed optimism after holding the seemingly promotion-bound Magpies.